White House

Zuber et Cie

I am a great lover of classic murals and tromp l'oeil, so I am always taken with the walls of the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, commissioned by Jackie Kennedy in 1962.  You get a great sense of the space from Michelle Obama's Mannequin Challenge video.  

 

The other day I went down a wall mural clickhole and found myself on the website of Zuber, a french wall paper and fabric company established in 1797, only to discover that they created this one-of-a-kind room.   I think I'm in love. 

FLOTUS in the kitchen

House of Cards: Season 4, Episode 5

House of Cards: Season 4, Episode 5

Building on the theme from last week (House of Cards sets that I didn't care about last year when the show was boring), I have always been curious about this White House kitchen.  When I think "White House kitchen", a large industrial work space comes to mind.  

White House kitchen, 1890, with Dolly Johnson (recruited by President Harrison because her plain dishes were superior to those made by the fancy French chef)

White House kitchen, 1890, with Dolly Johnson (recruited by President Harrison because her plain dishes were superior to those made by the fancy French chef)

White House kitchen, current, located on the ground floor

White House kitchen, current, located on the ground floor

So what is this other kitchen that Claire Underwood is puttering around in (because we know she doesn't eat)?  

It turns out that when Jackie Kennedy moved into the White House in 1961, she thought the downstairs kitchen and dinning room were too impersonal for family life.  She had a bedroom and dressing room on the second floor converted into a family kitchen and dinning room (even though a chef was the person doing the cooking). 

Lady Bird Johnson in the family kitchen, 1966

Lady Bird Johnson in the family kitchen, 1966

Somewhere between the Kennedy and the Ford administration, someone decided to give the kitchen a touch of the 70's...

Gerald Ford making an english muffin, 1974

Gerald Ford making an english muffin, 1974

...and sometime post Ford, someone thought, let's keep the room dated by adding wallpaper that matches the drapes!  

White House Kitchen, 1992

White House Kitchen, 1992

White House Kitchen, 1992

White House Kitchen, 1992

Clinton erra, 1998

Clinton erra, 1998

In 1993, Bill Clinton and family moved in, and the kitchen was renovated, but from this picture, it looks like they just swapped out the wallpaper to something equally horrendous.  NOT AN UPGRADE! 

I'm not sure what it looks like now, but it must have been updated since the 90's.  I can't picture Michelle cracking eggs in a room this ugly.   

Gazing at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building

My interest in House of Cards has been reinvigorated by the plot twists in season four.  This season, like last season, Frank Underwood is the President, so he and Claire still live in the White House.  Even though the sets are the same as last year, now I care enough to write about them.

Let's take a closer look at this sitting room:

House of Cards: Season 4, Episode 5 - A room that is symmetrical down to the horizon line in the art. 

House of Cards: Season 4, Episode 5 - A room that is symmetrical down to the horizon line in the art. 

White House, West Side

White House, West Side

My first thought was, where is this room in the White House?  We have all seen pictures of the front and back of the White House, and have never seen a window of this shape. And secondly, why does it looks like Paris is outside?

Well, luckily the internet exists, and I was able to figure out that this is meant to be the west sitting room.  There is an identical window on the east side of the building.  

Now let's address the Parisian question:

The west sitting room faces a ginormous building called the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (formerly known as the Old Executive Office Building), and it is breathtaking.

This building was built between 1871 and 1888, which is just a few years after Haussmann's architecture reinvented the look of Paris.  The building contains more presidential offices as well as the office of the Vice President. 

House of Cards is not filmed in the White House (am I blowing your mind?), so this view is recreated on a sound stage using a translight image of the Eisenhower Building.  This means a massive photograph of the building was printed, taking into account the viewer's perspective from the west sitting room, and hung outside the set.  

I'm not quite as lighting savvy, so I'm not sure if the translight needs to be swapped out for nighttime scenes, or if lighting an be rigged to accommodate different times of day.  

Curiosity satisfied, this should be the end of the post, but then I thought, what if I added the word "interior" to my google search of the Eisenhower Building, and HOLY HELL!!!!!!!

Per wiki: Much of the interior was designed by Richard von Ezdorf using fireproof cast-iron structural and decorative elements, including massive skylights above each of the major stairwells and doorknobs with cast patterns indicating which of the original three occupying departments (State, Navy, or War) occupied a particular space. 

Indian Treaty Room

Indian Treaty Room

East Rotunda

East Rotunda

In conclusion, I get why Claire would want to sit and look out the window. 

Nouveau Americana

Hose f Cards Season 2.JPG

In the second season of House of Cards, Frank Underwood and The President stroll the halls of the White House, and sit down for a brief chat.  

The chairs they sit in are remarkable.  The furniture in the White House is consistently stately and unsurprising, but these chairs have an unexpected Art Nouveau quality.  They arms of the chair connect to the back in a smooth loop.  The dark wood and caning are classic, and the added organic quality take these chairs to the next level.

If anyone has more information about them, I'm all ears.

House of Cards.JPG